The Army Times brings us news of the passing of Michael Novosel, who served in WW II and earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. You have to read his story to believe it.
I am frankly in awe of the man. What a life! Can you imagine the wonderful movie that could be made about him?
Jim Tice reports:
Michael J. Novosel Sr., a veteran of three wars, a Medal of Honor recipient and a major figure in Army aviation history, died April 2 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after a long battle with cancer.
The 83—year—old retired chief warrant officer 4 earned the Medal of Honor for actions on Oct. 2, 1969, when he completed 15 hazardous combat extractions in a UH—1 Huey helicopter, saving the lives of 29 South Vietnamese soldiers who had been surrounded by enemy forces along the Cambodian border.
His military career began during World War II when, at age 19, he was commissioned in the Army Air Forces, and subsequently flew combat missions against Japan as a B—29 bomber pilot. When the Japanese surrendered aboard the battleship Missouri in September 1945, Novosel commanded a bomber in a massive flyover of the ceremony in Tokyo harbor.
After leaving active duty in 1949, Novosel joined the Air Force Reserve but was recalled to active duty for the Korean War.
By 1964, when Vietnam was heating up, Novosel, by then a reserve lieutenant colonel, requested recall to active duty for the burgeoning war. Told the Air Force was overstrength in lieutenant colonels, Novosel — by then 42 years old — accepted an appointment as an Army warrant officer, and eventually was assigned to the 283rd Medical Detachment as a 'dustoff' air evacuation pilot.
Interestingly, around the same time as the action that earned Novosel the Medal of Honor, his son joined him in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in the same unit. Also named Mike, and also now a retired chief warrant officer 4, the younger Novosel was also a 'dustoff' pilot, and together with his father, is credited with rescuing more than 7,000 men during their tours in Vietnam.
After several assignments as an author, lecturer and instructor with the Warrant Officer Career College and Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., Novosel retired in 1985. The Army renamed Fort Rucker's main street 'Novosel Avenue' to honor of the last serving U.S. military pilot to have flown combat missions during World War II.
As a master army aviator and Air Force command pilot, Novosel is the only person to hold the top pilot ratings for the two services. After 42 years on flight status, he logged 12,400 flying hours, 2,038 of those in combat. During two tours in Vietnam, he rescued an astounding 5,589 wounded soldiers.
Hat tip: Dennis Sevakis
Thomas Lifson 5 01 06
John B. Dwyer send the citation for the Michael Novosel's Medal of Honor:
NOVOSEL, MICHAEL J.
Rank and organization: Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Army, 82d Medical Detachment, 45th Medical Company, 68th Medical Group. Place and date: Kien Tuong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 2 October 1969. Entered service at: Kenner, La. Born: 3 September 1922, Etna, Pa.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. CWO Novosel, 82d Medical Detachment, distinguished himself while serving as commander of a medical evacuation helicopter. He unhesitatingly maneuvered his helicopter into a heavily fortified and defended enemy training area where a group of wounded Vietnamese soldiers were pinned down by a large enemy force. Flying without gunship or other cover and exposed to intense machinegun fire, CWO Novosel was able to locate and rescue a wounded soldier. Since all communications with the beleaguered troops had been lost, he repeatedly circled the battle area, flying at low level under continuous heavy fire, to attract the attention of the scattered friendly troops. This display of courage visibly raised their morale, as they recognized this as a signal to assemble for evacuation. On 6 occasions he and his crew were forced out of the battle area by the intense enemy fire, only to circle and return from another direction to land and extract additional troops. Near the end of the mission, a wounded soldier was spotted close to an enemy bunker. Fully realizing that he would attract a hail of enemy fire, CWO Novosel nevertheless attempted the extraction by hovering the helicopter backward. As the man was pulled on aboard, enemy automatic weapons opened fire at close range, damaged the aircraft and wounded CWO Novosel. He momentarily lost control of the aircraft, but quickly recovered and departed under the withering enemy fire. In all, 15 extremely hazardous extractions were performed in order to remove wounded personnel. As a direct result of his selfless conduct, the lives of 29 soldiers were saved. The extraordinary heroism displayed by CWO Novosel was an inspiration to his comrades in arms and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Update: William B. Thayer, CWO4, US Army Retired, adds to the lore with his own experiences:
I thought perhaps I would add a footnote to the article regarding the passing of CWO4 Michael J. Novosel Sr. and the naming of the Fort Rucker's main street, Novosel Avenue. In 1978 and 1979, I was a student at the Warrant Officer Career College. All of those in my Senior Warrant Officer class either knew or had heard of the legendary Mike Novosel.
All of us had an opportunity to observe Mike every noon hour. He led a small group of runners on a five mile run during lunch hour and the route they took included the main drag at Fort Rucker. Anyone who has ever been to Fort Rucker knows how hot it gets, especially at the category five level of the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature. Mike Novosel used to run those streets at Fort Rucker during noontime even when it reached the category five level and when no one else would dare exert themselves. At the time, Mike was about 57 or 58 years old and you could say that he more or less owned the streets of Fort Rucker at least for one hour a day. So it is more than appropriate that the main street of Fort Rucker is named after Mike Novosel.
My last assignment on active duty was in the Army's Military Awards Branch, where I spent more than ten years. In that capacity, I came in to contact with and got to know all of the Army living recipients of the Medal of Honor. It was my privilege to have provided them special Medal of Honor ID and travel cards and replace the rosette pins that are worn on the lapels denoting them as being recipients of the nation's highest decoration for combat valor. It was equally my privilege to have helped in the identification and prosecution of those who would falsely attribute valorous decorations to themselves thereby diminishing those who were truly deserving such as the late Chief Warrant Officer Novosel.